With the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis over, Obamacare has dominated the headlines. Two stories in particular have garnered special attention. First, the national healthcare.gov website did not work and, as a result, far fewer than expected Americans registered for insurance on it. Then, millions of Americans began to receive notices from their insurers that their healthcare plans would be canceled, despite the President’s campaign promise that consumers who want to keep their healthcare plan could do so.
These problems have led to two proposed legislative responses. To address the website failure, a number of lawmakers from both parties have proposed extending the date for the so-called “individual mandate” which requires individuals to obtain health insurance or instead pay a penalty. What the Congressional fix will look like — or whether, in fact, there will be one — is yet to be determined.
As for the campaign promise, the President announced that insurers will be allowed to keep employees on existing health care plans through 2014. At the same time, the House of Representatives has voted to allow health insurers to continue to offer the plans that would otherwise be canceled through 2014, but enactment of the bill is questionable.
These legislative and administrative fixes beg the question how the employer mandate — requiring employers with 50 or more full time employees to offer coverage to employees — will be affected. The answer: it should have very little effect. This past year, the President decided to that the IRS would not penalize non-compliant employers until 2015, but he did so because the IRS informed him that it did not have the mechanisms in place to monitor violations and assess penalties. No further delays from the IRS are expected.
So, while the Obamacare rollout stalls, the employer mandate should stay on schedule. Employers should continue their plans as the 2015 deadline quickly approaches.